The Minister for Housing has insisted the Government is not bringing in water charges through the back door.
Irish Water was yesterday given the go-ahead to start charging homes that are using too much water.
While every home in the country is allowed to use up to 213,000 litres per year free-of-charge, anyone found using more will have to pay for the excess.
There are currently some 80,000 homes using more than their share – and Irish Water says many have leaks on their property.
These homes will get a warning letter before Christmas and will be given 12 months to fix the leaks, reduce their usage or pay the charges.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has formerly launched a new housing development from Co-operative Housing Ireland in Drumcondra.
The 40 apartments have been filled with families from Dublin City Council’s housing list. pic.twitter.com/xhevzzp3RL
— Kacey O'Riordan (@KaceyORiordan) July 18, 2019
This afternoon Minister Eoghan Murphy rejected claims the Government is trying to introduce water charges by stealth.
“We are not trying to charge people for using water,” he said.
“We want to make sure that where there is a leak we can find it and get it fixed – and we will pay for the first fix.
“Where people are wasting water, there is a penalty or fine that because the allowance is very generous. So it is not about charging at all; it is about changing behaviour.”
The new rules were agreed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in 2017 and concerns have been raised that the new rules leave the door open for future a future Government to reduce the annual allowance to raise funds.
Sinn Féin water spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the 2017 agreement simply kicked the water charges issue down the road – with no change to the plans since.
“There is no credible evidence to support claims that Irish households wilfully waste water.
“43% of our water is wasted in leaking pipes and infrastructure.
“The focus should be on detecting leaks and assisting homeowner in fixing these through an expanded find and fix service.
“Charging for so-called excessive use is the result of a backroom deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and leaves a future government with the opportunity to reintroduce a domestic charge.”
Minister Murphy said the new rules are about conservation rather than raising money.
Minister Eoghan Murphy says the measures are about conservation rather than raising revenue.
“These are fines for people who are wasting water or where there is a leak on their property that means a lot of water is actually running in to the ground.
“So this is something that was agreed with the Oireachtas to make sure that we can get to a more sustainable use of water.
“It is not about raising any money for Irish Water – actually, we want to find the problems, fix the leaks, change people’s behaviour and save water.”
Homes found to be using too much water face charges of €1.85 per 1,000 extra litres used. The charge will be capped at €500.
Anyone with a medical condition or who has a household with more than four children can apply for an exemption.
Irish Water is also running a 'first fix free' scheme if a leak is found on an external supply pipe leading into a home.
The utility has also launched a water-conservation campaign encouraging people to only use what they need.